Sunday, February 2, 2020

A Terrible Torrent of Words: Writing from Grief

by Audrey Frank @AudreyCFrank

Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me (Psalm 69:1-3).

What does the writer do when grief releases a terrible torrent of words in her soul, words so rough and distressing she almost dare not record them? The world she thought she knew, it would seem, has been permanently altered by loss. The words she once used to package her thoughts no longer seem to fit. She needs new ones. Superlative adjectives.

The grieving writer wonders if she can ever share her words with others again. The pen, once a comfort, feels like a dagger in her hand. She doesn’t wish to hurt others with its sharp blade. Should she take up this weapon? Can she trust her trembling hands to wield it skillfully even as her eyes are blinded by tears?

The words that come like a flood in times of grief need to be expressed. Unavailable in times of comfort and ease, they are uniquely accessible only through the crushing of sorrow, Such words need to be recorded for posterity’s sake, for the sake of our own hearts and the hearts of the suffering ones who believe they are alone. 

For writers, those entrusted with the stewardship of words, our commission does not end when we are hurting. Our Gentle Commissioner will help us find our way through the pain one word at a time.

I am finding there is a method to this process.

Write without a target audience. 

I have often taken a photo example of my target audience and taped it to my laptop to glance at as I write. It helps me focus on my objective and humanize my message. 

But when one is broken by sorrow, there is no audience but God. 

Pour out your burden, your grief, with full abandonment to your God. This is the ultimate, intimate space for the follower of Jesus. You. And Him. That is all. 

If you must place a picture in your mind, or tape it to your laptop, tape your own. His eyes are on you as you pour out your soul, and you are the apple of His eye, the one whom His heart loves.

Write without an editor.

It took me several seconds to realize that my words were a jumble of Arabic and English script. I was weeping so heavily that I had intermittently hit the language transition key on my keyboard as I pounded away. I didn’t even care. It was fitting for the state of my mind and heart. It captured the jumble of emotions I felt. 

Writing in grief often takes its own unique form. There have been days in recent months that all I could do was write poetry. Regular grammar and syntax could not capture my feelings adequately. There have been other days that my grief-writing was a bullet point list of words and phrases that strengthened me that day.

Write without manners. 

I believe in discretion and manners, especially in the stewardship of words. But I have found that grief doesn’t care much for my manners. It appears when it wants and interrupts my plans. It makes me ugly cry. Grief makes words pop out of me that leave me embarrassed and awkward in the ensuing silence between me and a friend who was only trying to help.

Grief strips the human soul naked before itself. We are already fully known by the Lord, but in times of normal and comfort, we manage somehow to hide from even our own eyes. Grief and sorrow have a way of revealing the hidden things. 

At one point I found my manners were preventing me from communicating honestly even with myself about how much I truly was hurting inside. Putting such searing pain into words was ugly, unattractive, impolite. When I gave in and let the words flow before my Savior, I was liberated. 

Manners don’t matter much to God either, it would appear. He loves me even when grief mortifies me with my own rudeness.

Share Your Writing with others through a Filter Friend. 

When my son was critically burned in a house fire last autumn, I was unwillingly thrust into a new world of pain and suffering. What I was seeing each day, what I was hearing, what I was doing, no person would ever choose. 

After the initial days of shock, the words began to come like a terrible torrent in my heart. They scared me with their strength, their fierce demand to be given a voice. I began to write snatches here and there, bits on a note pad, a few lines in the notes app on my phone. Every word seemed important and urgent as if it was living history that had to be recorded. And indeed it was.

Through my hurt, I was vaguely aware of the concern that my words might shock and alarm others. Grief, shock, and anger aren’t where many of us want to be. Not exactly cheery party chat material, especially around the holidays.

So I began to write from my grief, and when I felt compelled to share, I sent my words first to a friend to filter them. Am I too harsh? Have I managed to bring comfort or alarm? With her gentle and compassionate help, I was able to share my grief words with others in a helpful, rather than harmful, form. 

I am still writing from grief and will be for some time. And for as long as it takes, I will rely on the help of my filter friends to fashion these hurting words into comfort.

I hope you are not in a place of grief right now. But I know too well that many of us do face this terrible torrent of words at one time or another. Don’t be afraid to write from sorrow. So many are suffering in silence, hidden away. They think they are alone. Our words recorded in the storm might be the lighthouse they need to make it to safe harbor. 

Lord, when the floods of grief engulf me, give me the liberating comfort of words. Amen.


Audrey Frank is an author, speaker, and storyteller. The stories she shares are brave and true. They give voice to those whose words are silenced by shame, the hard things in life that don’t make sense, and the losses that leave us wondering if we will survive. Audrey and her family have spent over twenty years living and working among different cultures and world views, and she has found that God’s story of redemption spans every geography and culture. He is the God of Instead, giving honor instead of shame, gladness instead of mourning, hope instead of despair. Although she has three different degrees in communication and intercultural studies, Audrey’s greatest credential is that she is known and loved by the One who made her.

Audrey is the author of Covered Glory: The Face of Honor and Shame in the Muslim World (Harvest House Publishers)an outpouring of Audrey’s heart to introduce others to the God of Instead. Shame is not unique to the developing world, the plight of the women behind veils, young girls trafficked across borders; shame is lurking in hearts everywhere. Through powerful stories from women around the world, Covered Glory illuminates the power of the Gospel to remove shame, giving honor instead. Available at favorite booksellers: Barnes & Noble Books A MillionAmazon.

You can also find Audrey at, as well as on Twitter and Facebook


  1. Thank you Audrey for your wise words, learned in the most difficult way.
    In some ways a writer is able to express grief, sorrow, anger easier than those who don’t write; it feels good to get the emotions out - daily as needed.
    Praying for peace of mind & heart for you and your family from our gracious Christ Jesus.

  2. Audrey, I am praying for you, your son, and all you touch with your words.

  3. Oh, dear. Do I know about [good] grief,
    Charlie Brown.
    God bless you.